Evidence: Archival Footage in Documentary
An alluring black and white snapshot of a beautiful, 1970s hippy like family sits on my desk. The photograph, actually sepia in color is slightly frayed on the upper left hand corner, giving the image a more romantic and authentic worth. This photograph was given to me about three years ago by a young Argentine filmmaker when she narrated for me the story of her new documentary; an intimate portrait of her parent's, and ultimately family's, break up. A few days later, inadvertently, but completely unselfconsciously, the Alejandra, the filmmaker, revealed that this was actually not a photograph of her family.
She had found this picture at a second hand bookstore and immediately fell in love with the beautiful young family in it. She imagined that the couple could have been her parents, and the small children, her older siblings. She decided to use this image as proof of her parent's history. That past that existed before she was born, which vividly recreates in her documentary in hopes of making sense about that which she never knew.
Some might call this a silly ploy, or an insignificant attempt by a young artist to get attention. Perhaps. But why have I kept this photo on my desk for all these years? It's a striking image, the couple is quite handsome, but this can't be the only reason. It's a reminder of the past, fictitious, perhaps, but when I look at it I'm reminded of its significance, worth and even 'truth' for Alejandra, as she grapples to understand her family's history.
Bennett Miller's multi million dollar, Hollywood triumph, Moneyball, opens with 'archival footage' of the Oakland Athletics' pivotal game against the Boston Red Sox. It is true that Moneyball is based on a real story (and the non fiction best seller by Michael Lewis), but why does Miller literally begin the film with grainy, archival television footage from a 2001 Oakland A's baseball game when he's making a fiction film starring Brad Pitt? Does Miller also believe that the power of 'archival images' is that it represents truth?
Despite the ubiquitous moving images bombarding our lives 24/7 in the 21st century many still put enormous weight on the absolute credibility of the archival image, why? What makes archival material still seem so convincing on the screen? Oksana Sarkisova and I have selected eight extraordinary documentaries that use archival images to question, confront or reflect on history. Three of these films use archival images as forensic evidence in courts of law, one uses it as a subjective analysis in regards to Hannah Arendt's 'banality of evil' and four use it to rewrite/re tell their country's official history. We invite you to watch these wonderful films with us and help us grapple with the meaning, significance and legitimacy of the archival image.
Film Producer and Human Rights Consultant
Jérôme Laffont / Belgium / 2009 / 52 min / French
“The camera is a weapon,” proves René Vautier, who defied the French-imposed censorship during the Algerian war of Independence and joined the battle of competing images on the side of the independence fighters.
producer: Michel Khleifi
editor: Joachim Thôme
sound: Nicolas Jolym, Matthieu Roche
Sourat Films Co. & Centre de l'Audiovisuel à Bruxelles (CBA)
28 avenue des Villas, B-1060 Bruxelles, Belgium
tel.: 32 2 375 04 75 / 32 4 73 99 53 18
fax.: 32 2 375 04 75
Centre de l'Audiovisuel à Bruxelles (CBA)
Maison de la Francité, 19f, avenue des Artsm Bruxelles, 1000, Belgique
tel.: +32(0)2/227.22.30 / +32(0)2/227.22.39
Résister n’est pas un crime (2007)
Pamela Yates / USA / 2011 / 103 min / English
What is the role of a documentary filmmaker in the events she chronicles? A 1982 documentary film When the Mountains Tremble becomes forensic evidence to help prove a genocide case against a military dictator.
producer: Paco de Onís
editor: Peter Kinoy
camera: Melle van Essen
sound: Richard Fleming, Alvaro Silva Wuth
music: Roger C. Miller
33 Flatbush Ave, 4th Floor
Brooklyn, NY 11217
tel.: +1 718 797 3125
The Reckoning: The Battle for the International Criminal Court (2009) / State of Fear (2005) / Poverty Outlaw (1997) / When the Mountains Tremble (1983)
Péter Forgács / Hungary & The Netherlands / 1997 / 60 min / English
Family gatherings, birthdays, outings, weddings – a rich family home movie archive. A Jewish Dutch family in the shadow of the Holocaust.
producer: Cesar Messemaker
editor: Kati Juhász
music: Tibor Szemző
sound: Zsolt Hubay
Lumen Film Productions
Korte Prinsengracht 17d, NL-1013 GN
tel.: +31 (0)20 623 26 00
Hunky Blues - The American Dream (2009) / Own Death (2007) / Miss Universe 1929 - Lisl Goldarbeiter. A Queen in Wien (2006) / El Perro Negro: Stories from the Spanish Civil War (2005) / A Bibo Reader (2002) / Angelos' film (2001) / The Danube Exodus (1998) / Free Fall (1998) / Domweg gelukkig (1995) / Wittgenstein Tractatus (1992)
Angus Gibson & Miguel Salazar / Colombia & France & USA / 2011 / 88 min / Spanish
34 guerillas, 11 Supreme Court Judges, and dozens of court employees – the death toll of the siege of the Palace of Justice in 1985 in Columbia. Who is to be held responsible?
producer: Bruni Burres, David Jammy, Maritza Blanco, Miguel Salazar
editor: Megan Gill
camera: Roberto Quintana, Miguel Salazar, Mauricio Vidal
sound: José Jairo Flórez
music: Camilo Sanabria
International Center for Transitional Justice
5 Hanover Square, 24th floor
New York, NY 10004-2614
21 Up, South Africa: Mandela’s Children (2007) / Heartlines (2007) / Singing the Changes (1988)
Stolen Land (co-director) (2009) / The Battle of Science (2007) (co-director) / Hammer (2005)
Eyal Sivan / Austria & Belgium & France & Germany & Israel / 1999 / 123 min / Hebrew & French & German
Edited from over 350 hours of archival footage, the film is a record of the 1961 trial of Adolf Eichmann, the man who coordinated the transport of Jews to the death camps. An insight into the bureaucracy that made the Holocaust possible.
producer: Armelle Laborie, Eyal Sivan
editor: Audrey Maurion
camera: Leo Hurwitz
sound: Nicolas Becker, Philippe Baudhuin
music: Jean-Michel Levy, Nicolas Becker, Krishna Levy, Yves Robert, Béatrice Thiriet
38, rue de la Chine 75020 Paris France
tel.: +33 (0)1 43 66 25 24
Jaffa, The Orange's Clockwork (2009) / Citizens K. (2007) / Route 181: Fragments of a Journey in Palestine-Israel (2004) / I Love You All (2004) / The Specialist (1999) / Itsembatsemba: Rwanda One Genocide Later (1996) / Izkor: Slaves of Memory (1991) / Aqabat-Jaber, Passing Through (1987)
Maciej J. Drygas / Poland / 1994 / 57 minutes / Russian
Previously classified archival footage from the Soviet space program asks questions about life in space that official reports avoided.
In the same year that we saw the first Russian-U.S. space mission go into orbit, symbolically marking the end of the Cold War's final frontier, filmmaker Drygas takes us behind the scenes of the Soviet/Russian space program. Combining interviews with Russian cosmonauts with never before seen archival footage of the early Soviet space program, The State of Weightlessness explores our place in the universe. Cosmonauts ranging from Herman Titov, who in 1961 became the second man in space, to Valeri Polakov, who spent 241 days in orbit in 1988, reveal facts that were previously suppressed about the life of astronauts before, during, and after missions. These men also divulge the equally carefully hidden dark side of the space program: the enormous fear of death as they left and returned to Earth, and the rigorous medical and psychological experiments that left many maimed for life.
producer: Maciej J. Drygas
editor: Dorota Wardęszkiewicz
camera: Andrzej Musiał, Stanisław Śliskowski
sound: Andrzej Zabicki
music: Paweł Szymański
Logos Film Studio
90-554 Łódź, ul. Łąkowa 29
One Day in People's Poland (2006) / Stan niewazkosci (1994) / Hear My Cry (1991) / Psychoterapia (1983)
Harun Farocki & Andrei Ujica / Germany / 1992 / 106 min / English & Romanian
The Romanian revolution of 1989 and the fall of the Ceauşescu regime, as seen through official and amateur video recordings. The role of image and media in capturing and re-telling recent history.
producer: Harun Farocki
editor: Egon Bunne
music: Bobby Buchler
Harun Farocki Filmproduktion
In Comparison (2009) / Respite (2007) / Nothing Ventured (2004) / War at a Distance (2003) / The Creators of the Shopping Worlds (2001) / Prison Images (2000) / Der Finanzchef (1998) / Worte und Spiele (1998) / The Interview (1997) / Still Life (1997) / Der Ausdruck der Hände (1997)
Luc Côté & Patricio Henriquez / Canada / 2010 / 100 min / English
In 2002, fifteen-year-old Canadian Omar Khadr became the youngest prisoner at Guantánamo Bay. A security camera tells the gripping story of a child who was considered a war criminal. Special Jury Award, IDFA, 2010.
producer: Luc Côté, Patricio Henriquez
editor: Andrea Henriquez
camera: Luc Côté, Patricio Henriquez
sound: Claude Langlois (sound editing)
Luc Côté, Les Films Adobe
70 St-Cyril, Montréal, Qc.
tel.: +1 514 576 1668
Turning 32 (2010) / Operation Homecoming (2005) / Operation Retour (2005) / Cirque For Life (2004)
Patricio Henriquez :
Under the Hood: A Voyage into the World of Torture (2007) / Desobediencia (2005) / The Dark Side of the White Lady (2005) / Images of a Dictatorship (2004) / Juchitan, Queer Paradise (2002)